Polar Bears and the US Endangered Species Act

Following a campaign (which I made a very small contribution to by signing the petition)  by the Center for Biological Diversity, polar bears were listed under the US Endangered Species Act just over two years ago.

Since then, nothing has really been done to try to help prevent the extinction of the bears.  The main threat to polar bears is the loss of sea ice due to climate change yet, bizarrely, officials declared the Endangered Species Act will not be used to help regulate the greenhouse gases which contribute to global warming and the melting ice in the Arctic Ocean.  The Center for Biological Diversity has sued to overturn the rule which does not allow the Act to be used in this way.

Polar Bear at Cape Churchill (Wapusk National Park, Manitoba, Canada)

Polar Bear at Cape Churchill (Wapusk National Park, Manitoba, Canada). Photographer: Ansgar Walk.

Meanwhile, the US Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed designating 187,166 square miles – 95% of it in the Beaufort Sea and Chukchi Sea – as polar bear critical habitat, however, this has drawn objections from the energy industry and other business interests.  Such a designation would mean, for example, that federal agencies would have to review whether granting permits for offshore drilling would adversely modify the habitat.

David M. Davison

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